A serious computer failure has left some of New Zealand's major cities without their newspapers this morning.
Publications across the Fairfax Media group, including Christchurch's The Press, The Dominion Post, Southland Times and Timaru Herald were affected. The Taranaki Daily News - also a morning paper - was able to publish its paper using a different computer system. Fairfax Media chief executive Allen Williams said the fault hit the main production system around 4.15pm yesterday and despite best efforts from IT staff, it was unable to be restored. "We are extremely disappointed. We pride ourselves on getting our papers out and have to say to our readers and advertisers we are very sorry," Williams said. "It's a bit like we've run a marathon and had a 'did not finish' against our name." Williams said staff had worked throughout the night to fix the issue.
This incident is “unprecedented” and we have not seen the same type of error since we have been running the system for five years, says Nigel Bailey, group operations manager, Fairfax Media.
He traces the disruption to a failover of the Genera database and says the IT team is working with vendors around the clock on the issue. He says the group has now restored clean copies of the database versions and these are currently being tested to ensure the publications affected will have both primary and backup systems. “We anticipate going back to normal production later this afternoon.” Press editor Andrew Holden said it was only the second time in the past few years the Press had lost an edition of the paper. In 2009, a fire in the press hall of the old city-centre building also stopped the paper going to print. Holden apologised to readers, saying staff had done their best to fix the problem. "[But] we had to accept at 2am that it could not be restored in time to produce the paper." Acting Editor of the Timaru Herald, Grant Shimmin, gave his sincere apologies the paper was unable to be printed. "Naturally, we were extremely reluctant to face up to the situation of not being able to put a paper out," Shimmin said. The error was expected to be fixed today. Stories prepared for the papers were still available online.